Credit Card charges now AUTOMATICALLY in USD
We have long known about the practice of being offered to put through a charge not in the local currency but in USD, no matter where in the world you are doing the transaction. It is sometimes called "dynamic conversion", usually offered as a "convenience", as doing the customer a favor, and many fall for it. The exchange rate that is being applied to such a transaction by the vendor is of course not as favorable to the customer as would have been the exchange rate that the credit-card issueing bank or its agencies apply.
Just now, on my trip in Poland, I have come across a new version of this, an AUTOMATIC conversion of the local currency into USD, where you are given no choice, and - what makes it practically fraudulent - a wording on the signature slip that says, below the line on which I sign, and I quote:
(begin quote)I accept that I have been offered a choice of currencies for payment. I accept the conversion rate and final amount and that the final selected transaction currency is USD. I also accept the my choice of currency is final. Currency conversion provided by eSERVICE S.A.(end quote)
I was not given a choice, the subject never came up, I was simply handed the slip to sign like with every credit-card transaction.
This has happened at the official ticket counter of the Polish railways, and also in a drug store.
A part of the problem for Americans is the sad fact that, even though we now all have a chip in our credit cards (well, most of us anyway), that chip is worthless in the sense that our US-issued cards are still "chip-and-sign" cards. Yes, you can now stick the card into a machine rather than having it swiped, but you still have to sign. If, instead of signing, you apply the PIN to the transaction, the transaction is automatically treated - by the credit-card company - as a CASH ADVANCE which incurs extra fees, finance charges, from the moment of the transaction, not from the next statement date! Call your credit-card issuer if you don't believe me!
Now I wonder, if we could use the chip-and-pin method, would the currency conversion still be automatically applied?
This business with signing the receipt and at the same time signing an "agreement" to the currency conversion is, in my view, fraudulent. Upon my return I will bring this up with - in my case - Chase and see what they say. Being signatories to the VISA organization, they may or may not be interested.
When you're standing in a long line of customers and it is your turn to pay, you cannot very well protest, hold up the line, and put the poor attendant through hell - they wouldn't even know what you're talking about when you point out that you are not signing because you are not agreeing to the automatic conversion being applied. His machine spits out the receipt, he needs a signature, he has no control over it, so if you're concerned, take out local currency in the ATMs (usually called "bancomat") and pay cash, in the local currency. Then take this up with your credit-card issuer.